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A quintessentially Minnesotan festival, annual Art Shanty Projects, opens this weekend

Tabletop game-themed dICEHOUSE Shanties
Courtesy of the Art Shanty Projects website
Tabletop game-themed dICEHOUSE Shanties

The annual Art Shanty Projects, a pop-up commune-cum-arty ice fishing village on Medicine Lake, embody something truly essential about the art scene in these parts.

While the shanties populating the lake change every year, the sensibility of the festival remains constant and distinctly Minnesotan - the ad hoc assortment of whimsical art shanties offers both a celebration of and refuge from midwinter's chill, a send-up to the wry humor, dogged determination, and sheer cleverness of the hardy folk who live in these sometimes brutal climes.

For the visitor, the art shanty experience has more in common with a potluck supper or an afternoon spent in a kid's backyard fort than a visit to an art gallery: members of the public, young and old, are invited to partake of an array of activities and performances, and to wander among a motley assortment of themed ice houses, temporarily installed on the frozen lake. As you wander through them, you'll notice each art shanty's character is dictated by the individual talents and interests of the participating artists, rather than by any predetermined, overarching theme.

According to the festival website, ASP is "a four-weekend exhibition of performance, architecture, science, art, video, literature, survivalism, and karaoke... part sculpture park, part artist residency and part social experiment, inspired by traditional ice fishing houses that dot the state’s lakes in winter."

This year's ASP includes 20 shanties and 15 performance events, including dance by BodyCartography Project, improvised cinema, live music, readings and recurring BIcicle Races. In addition, every weekend, visitors will be treated to an array of shanty-specific activities (many of them kid-friendly) as they make their way from one ice house to another.

ASP regulars will be happy to hear that a few old favorites are in the mix again this year - returning to the lake are the ever-popular ArtCar Taxi Shanty, the Art Post Shanty, and the crowd-pleasing, tabletop game-themed dICEHOUSE Shanties.

Some intriguing new offerings I'm especially eager to check out: the fairy-land themed FantaShanty, the scale-bending Tiny Shanty, the Art Swap ShantyShan-Tea Shanty, the Nordic Immersion Village Art Shanty and the I.D.E.A. Shanty, which "explores the intersection of art and science." See the full lineup of art shanties here.  (See also Amy Goetzman's write-up on the Library Shanty from earlier this week.) 

The Art Shanty Projects, on Medicine Lake in Plymouth, opens with a day of special events on Saturday, Jan. 16, and will continue through Feb. 7. Most activities and programs will take place on the weekends (see the full calendar of events here.) Admission to the Art Shanty Projects is free.

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